Tag Archives: arch

LXQT 0.7 – Back to the Future

LXQT screenshot by lxqt.org

Recently LXQT published its first stable version 0.7, time to take a look at the project that is announced on its website as  “the next generation of the lightweight desktop environment” and “the upcoming version of LXDE”.

LXQT is the love child Razor QT and the QT division of LXDE. Except the Openbox window manager, all elements of the DE like panel, menu, application launcher, settings, (simple) power management etc. are based on QT but without all the clunky KDE dependencies. But why create yet another lightweight desktop environment at all and not just stick with the LXDE code base ? This is explained in a LXDE blog post, or, if you want the management summary, because GTK2 is deprecated and the author thinks future development will go more smoothly with QT instead of GTK3.

Manjaro or Arch users can install lxqt-desktop from the AUR or a binary repository (links for other distributions can be found on lxqt.org). If you include optional dependencies, you also get some neat QT- based tools like PCManFM file manager, LxImage viewer, QTerminal, Juffed text editor, Screengrab and a task manager called QPS. On top of this you might want to add Xscreensaver (required for locking the desktop), VLC media player, Peazip QT for archives and Compton for a little eye candy. More QT apps can be found in the Razor QT wiki or on qt-apps.org. You could also use KDE applications but most of these will introduce the couple of hundred MB KDE dependencies which LXQT is trying so hard to avoid.

Chances are that you will be using some GTK apps, too (Gimp, LibreOffice, …). Like in KDE, GTK apps always look a little out of place but this can be fixed by using the QtCurve theme. Just install QtCurve and the Oxygen icon theme and apply them in LXQT Appearance settings, then repeat the same for your GTK apps using Lxappearance. GTK3 apps should be covered by Lxappearance, for QT5 (e.g. Qupzilla, transmission-qt, …) it’s not so simple. You can modify the application’s .desktop file to start the application with -style qtcurve, or configure an environment  variable (e.g. QT_STYLE_OVERRID=GTK) but these are both pretty ugly workarounds and I would much prefer LXQT Appearance handle this automatically behind the scenes.

Otherwise I’m not really missing anything. OK, transparency for the panel would be nice, or an image preview when choosing a new wallpaper … or a simple locker that doesn’t look like a leftover from the 90s, but that’s something XFCE and LXDE are lacking, too.

Is LXQT a decent lightweight desktop environment ready for daily use ? Definitely yes. I’ve been using it every day for about 2 weeks and it works without problems.

Is LXQT really the next generation of the Lightweight Desktop ? Maybe not yet … right now it’s still more a trip back to an earlier LXDE or XFCE release, but thanks to the QT toolkit and the unheard of merge of two OpenSource communities (usually those guys are forking, not merging) it is definitely the one with most potential to evolve into something really great real soon. Some of the more adventurous distribution makers seem to be seeing this, too, there are already DEV ISOs available for Siduction and Manjaro and others will surely follow.

Cinnamon 2

cinnamon2

Soon LinuxMint will release version 16 “Petra” including Cinnamon 2.0, which, unlike Cinnamon 1.x, doesn’t have any dependencies to Gnome. So the Mint- Team finally can stop caring whether a given Gnome version goes into the next Ubuntu release or not, or if there’s a different Gnome version in Debian.

For Arch and Manjaro users, the new Cinnamon has been available for a couple of weeks already, about time to try it out. Installation is simple, the “cinnamon” package from the Arch repos will install everything you need.

I created a new user profile for testing Cinnamon, so it would be easier to roll back to XFCE afterwards, but this shouldn’t be necessary. After the installation Cinnamon started without problems, the standard settings (Gnome icons and wallpaper) can be changed in the Settings Center, where you also can download new themes directly inside the widgets, same as in KDE (the screenshot shows the “dk-cinnamon” theme). Wallpapers, icons and GTK themes can be changed individually. When using the settings manager, you should definitely switch to “Advanced Mode”, simple mode hides a lot of useful settings like e.g. keyboard shortcuts.

Talking about keyboard shortcuts, Cinnamon shares the Gnome “Feature” of ignoring your .Xmodmap configuration, an absolute no go for owners of Lenovo laptops with their messed up keyboard layouts. Fortunately this can be fixed by a simple workaround, you only have to add a manual entry to the Session Startup:

sh -c "sleep 10;xmodmap ~/.Xmodmap"

All other configuration works as expected, moving panel widgets can be a bit tricky at times, but that’s something you usually do only once anyway. Compared to XFCE, Cinnamon offers more visual effects and configuration options (z.g. Alt+Tab or switching between virtual desktops), and a more modern start menu widget, that can even be opened by keyboard shortcut (on the other hand I prefer Whisker’s approach to favorites …). The Cinnamon lock screen looks much better than XFCE’s Xscreensaver, too, even if it doesn’t support classical screensaver animations, and Cinnamon power settings are a good replacement for  XFCE Power Manager. The “Nemo” file manager is not really my cup of tea (same as  Nautilus or Thunar), of course I know how to use them if I have to, but none of them will replace Double Commander as my default file manager any time soon. Panel applets can be downloaded directly, too. I didn’t try  Desklets but if you like a big analog clock and weather data on your desktop here’s your chance to achieve this without installing KDE.

Not that there was anything wrong with my XFCE setup, but overall Cinnamon 2 is really damn compelling. It has more eye candy and runs as fast and stable as XFCE  – so I think I’ll be staying in that new Cinnamon home directory for a little longer ;)

Pipelight – run Windows browser plugins on Linux

There is general agreement that browser plugins like Flash or Silverlight are a thing of the past. Ever since Apple refused to support Flash on the iPhone back in 2007, it is clear that the future is pure HTML5, and browser vendors are starting even now to disable plugins by default.

Reality, however, is a bit different. All legal (commercial) music and video streaming services depend on plugins, and so do most of the available web games. This is a constant annoyance, especially on Linux, where Flash (except in Google Chrome) is frozen on the sluggish 11.2 version and most other plugins like Silverlight, Quicktime or Shockwave are not supported at all.

This gap is closed by Pipelight, a project that aims to support Windows browser plugins by running them through a special, modified WINE version. In version 0.1 they supported Silverlight only (solving my long time Lovefilm on Linux problem), the new version 0.2 supports flash, too, and at least theoretically it should be possible to support any other Windows browser plugin in the future.

Installation is simple enough, at least on Manjaro or any other Arch- based system. You just type ‘yaourt pipelight’ in a terminal and after some minutes of building (the package depends on wine-browser-installer which takes a while to compile) you are done. When you next start up Firefox, a WINE initialization popup will appear and after that Silverlight should be working out of the box (if you still get those “your browser is not supported” errors, you might have to look into modifying the user agent, which can be done with an addon like UAControl).

If you want to enable flash, too, you have to run some more commands:

sudo pacman -R flashplugin
sudo pipelight-plugin --create-mozilla-plugins
sudo pipelight-plugin --enable flash
sudo pipelight-plugin --enable silverlight

The removal of ‘flashplugin’ is necessary because otherwise Firefox will for some reason still use the Linux plugin as long as it is available. Disabling it is not a option, because enabling / disabling always affects BOTH  plugins. After running “WINE Flash Install” on the next browser start the installation is complete.

Running on WINE doesn’t have any impact on performance, though, when running Flash Benchmark 08 on my Lenovo S400, Pipelight Flash 11.9 reaches 12 FPS on “Ultra” settings, exactly the same result as Chrome Pepper Flash. In comparison, the official Flash 11.2 already fails on “High” level with 21 FPS, which is A LOT slower and really makes a difference when playing high end Flash games or watching HD videos.

So if you are not happy with your Flash performance in browsers that are not Chrome (including Chromium, by the way), or need Silverlight on Linux, give Pipelight a try.

Manjaro – Arch for the rest of us

Manjaro aims at creating “a user-friendly Linux distribution based on the independently developed Arch operating system”. This approach has made Manjaro the first Arch- based distro to not only enter the Top 10, but actually outrank Arch on Distrowatch.

So, how does a user-friendly Archlinux feel, and how does it compare to other end user centric distributions like Linux Mint ?

The installation of Manjaro 0.8.7 XFCE was easy and intuitive, and all the hardware of my Lenovo S400 was correctly recognized (at least after I switched from Kernel 3.04 to 3.10, which has become the default in version 0.8.7.1). In a little over 1GB the ISO contains all necessary software, Firefox, Thunderbird, the Gimp, LibreOffice, VLC and lots of others. The XFCE Desktop is elegant and functional, and uses Whisker menu instead of the slightly dated XFCE default menu. Just like Ubuntu or Mint, Manjaro has a graphical Updater and package manager but I still prefer the “classic” command line tools. For Arch and Manjaro that means  pacman and yaourt (which is included by default for AUR access).

If you don’t like XFCE, there is also an Openbox version, and “Community Editions” for all common  desktop environments and even Enlightenment. Unlike Archbang or Bridge, the Manjaro team is maintaining separate repositories, but updates are frequent and changes are kept to a minimum, so that AUR compatibility is ensured.

Due to the rolling release nature of Arch, Updates are much more frequent than in Ubuntu- based distributions, and you never have to do a big “distribution upgrade” that breaks everything or even reinstall every few months (like in Mint). There can be a small delay before a new Arch package is moved on to the Manjaro repos, but that also means that the really bad bugs have usually been fixed.

Overall, Manjaro is a keeper. The perfect compromise between a user friendly every day distribution, and “bleeding edge” Arch appeal. Give it a try, you might like it :)

The Arch Diaries (2012)

This is a re- post from a little series I posted on http://archlinux.me/axel668 back in 2012 … probably outdated, just archiving for my own reference.

The Arch Diaries (1) – Installation

After some quality time with Crunchbang and Mint 13 XFCE I was looking for a little more adventure again. Manjaro, despite a brilliant Live experience, wouldn’t boot after installation on my Asus 1215N, so I decided to quickly set up Arch over the weekend, only to discover that the installer is gone !! My first reaction was to write an angry post to the Arch forum, but in the end I delete it and decided accept the challenge. We’re here to learn something after all, right ?

The documentation on the USB image is by no means sufficient, so you either have to print out half of Arch Wiki before starting, or even better have a second internet device ready to read some documentation (starting from the official Installation Guide – would be really cool if the install media included arch-wiki-lite or a text based browser like links to avoid this necessity). Anyway, here’s a short log of what I had to do to install Arch (with the 2012-10 hybrid setup image) to my Asus 1215N laptop.

  1. Burn the ISO to USB using dd, e.g. dd if=archlinux-2012.10.06-dual.iso of=/dev/sdb (don’t just copy this line, but CAREFULLY CHECK THE DEVICE NAME, so you don’t accidentally erase a harddrive)
  2. The Arch install media supports wireless networking – run wifi-menu to connect to wireless network (cable DHCP should connect automatically)
  3. Keyboard layout can be set with e.g. loadkeys de
  4. I didn’t want to change the partitioning, and if I did I would do it before installing Arch with a PartedMagic CD / USB.
  5. The next step is formatting the root and swap partition. To show the partition table, use lsblk  and/or fdisk -l, then simply format the root partition with e.g.  mkfs -t ext4 /dev/sda7 and the swap partition with mkswap /dev/sda8 (numbers will be different on your system). ATTENTION ! THIS IS THE POINT OF NO RETURN, it will obviously destroy your old Linux installation in /dev/sda7 !!
  6. Now you can install packages. Mount the root partition to /mnt. Then check /etc/pacman.d/mirrorlist and then run  pacstrap /mnt base base-devel wireless_tools grub-bios dmenu wpa_supplicant links – this will give you the base system with dev packages (for AUR install), a bootloader, wifi-menu and the links console browser
  7. Now create the fstab with genfstab -p /mnt >> /mnt/etc/fstab
  8. Now chroot into the installed system: arch-chroot /mnt - the next steps have to be executed in the context of your new system, and NOT on the install media
  9. Write a hostname into /etc/hostname (something like “arch-yourname”)
  10. Symlink your timezone, e.g. ln -s /usr/share/zoneinfo/Europe/Berlin /etc/localtime.
  11.  If you dual boot with Windows you should set the clock to local time instead of UTF by entering LOCAL at the end of /etc/adjtime
  12. Uncomment the locale in of your choice in /etc/locale.gen and enter the same name in /etc/locale.conf (e.g. “en_US.UTF-8″), then generate locale-gen.
  13. Console keyboard layout is defined in /etc/vconsole.conf (e.g. “KEYMAP=de-latin1-nodeadkeys”)
  14. Create the boot image with mkinitcpio -p linux (configuration can be changed in /etc/mkinitcpio.conf, but defaults were working fine for me)
  15. Install the bootloader with grub-mkconfig -o /boot/grub/grub.cfg and install with grub-install
  16. Set a root password with passwd
  17. Finally, exit chroot, unmount (umount /mnt) and reboot

After these steps you are now at the point where you would have been after running the old Arch text installer, i.e. you should be able to boot into your brand new Arch install with root and start further configuration. This will take you between 1-2 hours, remember that in case of an error you can always go back to the install media and mount / chroot into your installation to correct errors.

This concludes the 1st part of the log of my first Arch “From Scratch” install from November 2012, on an Asus Eee PC 1215N. In part 2 I’m going to point out how to turn that empty Arch system into an operating system by installing X, a browser, packer (to install stuff from the AUR), Bumblebee Nvidia Optimus support. In part 3 JWM will be added as a simple desktop environment.

The Arch Diaries (2) – Xorg, Network, Hardware Support

Even after installation (see part 1), the Arch system is still pretty basic. You can boot into text mode, connect to the internet with wifi-menu or even do some basic text browsing, but for a desktop system a very central part is still missing – the desktop. The 2nd part of my “Arch from Scratch” diary shows how to set up X and configure some hardware for my Asus 1215N (the process may be different on different hardware).

  1. The first step is of course to install X-Windows. If you don’t know exactly what hardware you have, you can just install the whole Xorg group with pacman -S xorg. This will install most drivers and allow Xorg to auto detect your hardware. To be able to do ANYTHING in X you will also need xorg-init and xterm, too. Now you should be able to ‘startx’ successfully from root into a naked XWindows with a couple of xterms.
  2. You shouldn’t work as root of course, so now’s the time to create a new user with adduser. Some recommendations for groups can be found in the wiki. For startx to work for the new user, I had to copy /etc/X11/xinit/xinitrc to ~/.xinitrc.
  3. While you’re at it, install sudo and enable it for your user (or the whole wheel group) – run EXPORT EDITOR=nano; visudo and uncomment the desired line in the config file
  4. Add Firefox or Chromium and you already have a very basic work environment, allowing you to read Arch wiki and access the forum
  5. For easy AUR access you want a tool like yaourt or packer – I used this blog post as a guide, but you can also check out the more general documentation in the Arch wiki. Once this is done, you can simply search and install packages by typing e.g. packer chrome and then picking the number from the list.
  6. To support my Nvidia Optimus graphics chip, I installed Bumblebee from the AUR by simply typing packer bumblebee. I didn’t have to change anything in the PKGBUILD files, but Arch wiki insists you should always have a look at them, to check if they really do what they seem (a malicious PKGBUILD could do serious harm to your computer). This will install nvidia-utils-bumblebee but not the Nvidia drivers and power management, so you have to install nvidia and dkms-bbswitch separately. After a reboot you should be able to run any program against your Nvidia chip with the optirun command.
  7. For the automatic dkms rebuild to work properly after a kernel update, you have to change /etc/bumblebee/bumblebee.conf from PMMETHOD=auto to PMMETHOD=bbswitch (as described by Samsagax in a comment on the AUR page) and enable the DKMS service with systemctl enable dkms (more details here)
  8. Even though wifi was working with the included Kernel drivers, I experienced frequent disconnects with my BCM4013 wireless chip. After some research I finally resolved the issue by switching to the proprietary dkms-broadcom-wl driver from the AUR. To make sure broadcom-wl is really used, you should enable the kernel module wl and blacklist b43, ssb and brcm80211 (as described in the wiki). Using broadcom-wl will switch the wireless device from wlan0 to eth0, so you have to change netcfg configurations accordingly and wifi-menu will not work anymore.
  9. So this a good moment to install a network administration tool like wicd (don’t forget to configure the wireless device, usually wlan0 or eth0 – the easiest way to do this is in the preferences of the wicd-client took from package wicd-gtk)
  10.  Of course you could just install a desktop environment like XFCE (pacman -S xfce) or KDE now and be done with it, or start to create your own desktop environment with a window manager (like Openbox, Fluxbox, JWM, …)

This concludes part 2 of my Arch diaries, in the next part I will describe how I created a simple, lightweight desktop environment based on the JWM window manager.

The Arch Diaries (3) – A JWM Desktop Environment

In part 1 and 2 I showed how I installed Arch and configured my hardware, and X.

Of course you could just type pacman -S xfce and be done with it, but honestly, if you were looking for an easy solution you’d be using something like Mint or Bodhi in the first place. So here’s what I did to create a kind of desktop environment based on JWM. JWM  is a lightweight window manager used in distributions like Puppy or Damn Small Linux. Even without customizing, JWM creates a simple, fully functional XP- like desktop. JWM is very configurable, and all options can be set in one single XML file (~/.jwmrc, as always the Arch Wiki has more details).

  1. Install jwm (pacman -S jwm) and add the following line to ~/.xinitrc to start JWM when you run startx: exec ck-launch-session dbus-launch jwm.
    Instead of using a logon manager like slim you can configure X to start automatically after logon as described in the wiki.
  2. By default, JWM is ugly as sin. To improve the looks, I copied the Antix JWM theme and replaced cyan with Arch blue (#1793D0 according to the Arch forums)
  3. GTK theme, icons and fonts can be modified using lxappearance. I chose elementary-gtk-theme and faenza-icon-theme from the AUR and installed ttf-droid and ttf-liberation fonts.
  4. JWM doesn’t have a run dialog or task manager, so I linked gmrun to Alt+F2 and xfce4-taskmanager to Ctrl+Alt+Del. The Exit menu entry will just bring you back to the terminal, so I added oblogout as shutdown / logout dialog
  5. Screensaver / lock is provided by xautolock and xlockmore – running xautolock -time 7 -corners 0-00 as <StartupCommand> will lock the screen after 7 minutes, unless the mouse cursor sits in the upper right corner (great way to disable screen locking while watching movies)
  6. Now you can install the usual tools and applications, like e.g. pcmanfm file manager, google-chrome browser, gpicview image viewer, lxterminal, xfce4-screenshotter, gksu, conky, scite text editor, xcalc, volumeicon, batti to show battery status, gpicview image viewer, gimp image editor, transmission Bittorrent client or the VLC mediaplayer … if you are looking for something special, alternative.to is always a good place to start
  7. For libreoffice, when installing with pacman -S libreoffice make sure to deselect libreoffice-kde to save diskspace for a whole lot of KDE dependencies. To address the issue of missing window decorations in JWM, you have to force the UI to generic mode (e.g. SAL_USE_VCLPLUGIN=gen lowriter).
That’s all it takes to create your own desktop environment based on JWM. Of course this is just an example, the variety of available tools and themes is endless, and as always in the Arch world, the journey is the reward.

Archbang 2012.05 + XFCE 4.10

Archbang

Archbang Linux is an old dream of mankind come true: working Archlinux out of the box. Because that’s what you get after installing Archbang to your harddrive: plain vanilla Arch –  the same package system, the same repositories, and the same bleeding edge rolling release. This also means, Archbang might not be for everyone, it’s actually more like a shortcut if you COULD install Arch (i.e. have done it before) but want to save an afternoon.

The 32 Bit ISO weighs less than 500MB and contains the essential OS with a simple Crunchbang- style Openbox desktop. All my hardware (eeePC 1215N) worked out of the box, except having to install Bumblebee Nvidia drivers. For your package managing needs Archbang includes packer, a pacman wrapper with included AUR access, giving you access to the latest stable version of about any piece of Linux software that is available on the internet (if that’s still not bleeding edge enough for you, there often is a Dev / Beta version in the AUR, too).

The (text based) installation process is rather smooth, but it might make sense to partition your HD before (e.g. with PartedMagic), or at least check the partition table with fdisk -l, so you don’t accidentally overwrite your data or Windows partition … Before upgrading (packer -Syyu) read the latest news on archlinux.org, right now there are 2 entries (filesystem upgrade, pacman verify) to considered before you can successfully upgrade Archbang 2012.05 to the latest packages.

XFCE

Archbang also makes a great base to install another desktop environment, e.g. for XFCE you only have to run ‘pacman -S xfce4‘ and then replace the openbox startup line at the end of .xinitrc with ‘exec startxfce4‘. Arch repos of course already include XFCE 4.10, which is certainly the most mature desktop environment I have seen so far, and one of the snappiest. Sticking to the classic taskpanel / menu concept, XFCE it is easy to use, very customizable and easy on the eyes:

This is my XFCE desktop, using Elementary GTK theme, Minimal XFWM theme and Faenza Dark icons (the dock on top is wbar, the wallpaper is available here). This setup is very efficient in terms of screen estate, I havent’t found any other combination of OS / desktop environment, yet, that uses so little space for window decorations and scrollbars, while still being fully functional. Combined with the Classic Compact Firefox theme this gives you an almost fullscreen browsing experience, and makes Chrome look bloated in comparison (especially in combination with the dated and cheesy Windows Aero UI).

PS: most of this was written in June for my old blog, reposting for archiving purposes

10 more things to do after installing Archbang

So you installed Archbang, and now you are getting bored because everything is running so smoothly ? Already finished your “10 things to do after installing Archbang” ? Here’s some more stuff you can do around your favorite Linux Distro …

1. Install Tools

While Archbang has everything you need, there is always room for improvement on the tools side …

  • Htop is a task manager for the console – either assign it to a hotkey (in urxvt) or start it from a root terminal (Ctrl+F1) to control over every single process on your OS
  • Scite will give you advanced text editing and syntax highlighting, while being almost as light as leafpad
  • Double Commander is a cross platform clone of the famous Total Commander with additional improvements, which makes it the best (orthodox) file manager currently avaliable on any OS
  • Mc is a Norton Commander clone for the console – a real life saver in case you mess up your X while updating or tweaking the configuration

2. Install LibreOffice

In a perfect world this would be a no- brainer, but ‘sudo pacman -S libreoffice’, while getting the job done, will include 500+ MB of KDE goodness from the libreoffice-kde package. Arch Wiki offers to use ‘pacman -S libreoffice-common libreoffice-{base,calc,draw,impress,math,writer,gnome,sdk,sdk-doc}’, and if you do not use Extensions you can skip the sdk parts, too.

3. Install MS Fonts

Install ttf-ms-fonts and ttf-vista-fonts, this will not only make websites look more like on the Win7 office rig, but will also improve the looks of your imported Word docs a lot !

4. Put your laptop to sleep on lid close

Of course you could just install xfce4-power-manager for this, but that’s not exactly The Arch Way, right ? A more elegant solution is to use acpid and pm-utils … as a little exercise, figure out the details from the Wiki – good luck !!

5. Connect with netcfg

If your machine is usually connected to the same network, you might want to use netcfg in /etc/rc.conf. The connection is started early in the boot process, so you will be online even before the desktop is loaded. Always use the ‘@’ prefix for it in the DAEMONS array, otherwise the whole boot process will be delayed until connection attempts are finished. You can of course disable network-manager and network with the ‘!’ prefix, just don’t uninstall – downloading network-manager can be tricky when your network is broken …

6. Show network status in conky

Of course netcfg doesn’t have a tray icon, so you might want to add a couple of lines to you conkyrc, to show network status (example shows a wireless connection):

${wireless_essid wlan0} (${wireless_bitrate wlan0}) $alignr ${wireless_link_qual_perc wlan0}%
${wireless_link_bar wlan0}
Down: ${downspeed wlan0} $alignr Up: ${upspeed wlan}
${downspeedgraph wlan0 20,115 999999 cccccc} ${alignr}${upspeedgraph wlan0 20,115 999999 cccccc}

7. Create your own keyboard bindings

Like every decent operating system, you can customize keyboard shortcuts in Archbang’s openbox environment. The most comfy way to do this, is installing obkey. But even editing openbox rc.xml is not rocket science, and is well documented in the openbox Wiki

8. Install games

Most operating systems offer a small selection of games – here’s my suggestion for the “Archbang Games” collection:

  • Pysolfc offers a huge collection of solitaire card (and Mahjong) games
  • Ltris is a very nice Tetris clone
  • Stone-soup (aka Dungeon Crawl)  is a rogue-like with (simple) graphics and tutorial mode
  • Dopewars is a classic business simulation with a drug dealing theme
  • Micropolis is the original Sim City game (open sourced for the OLPC project)

Of course there are fancier Linux games around, but the ones mentioned above are effective time killers and go well with the Arch philosophy … a good starting point for Linux gaming in general is LGDB, or of course Google.

9. Run Windows programs using WINE

If someone asks you, “This Archbang is kinda nice, but will it run {insert random Windows program} ?” – wouldn’t you love to just tell them “Sure, pass me that CD” ? In fact, about two thirds of the software I’m asked about by family and friends runs just fine, if you add wine and winetricks to your Archbang install. Check the WINE AppDb, you will be surprised how much Windows software will work fine under Linux.

10. Join the community

Even if you are not a programmer, you can contribute … join the forums (Archbang, Arch), file Bugs or contribute to the Arch Wiki.

Archbang 2011.10 on Asus Eee 1215N

Although my Bodhi install is running fine, I have still not given up on my dream of running some kind of Archlinux as my primary OS, and preferably with a #! style Openbox desktop. After discouraging results with both, ‘vanilla’ Arch 2011.08.19 and CTK Arch 0.7 (both could not handle my wireless or run X in the native solution), I was not really optimistic about the new Archbang 2011.10. But what a pleasant surprise, with the “Autodetect X” boot option I did not only get wireless and full resolution X, but even Intel 3D on the live USB. Of course I instantly picked ‘install’ from the openbox menu, and was rewarded with a working Arch install just 15 minutes later.

Archbang features the #! ‘classic’ setup with Openbox and Tint2. The preinstalled software is reduced to the absolute essentials – Firefox Nightly, Flash, uTorrent, Thunar, gmplayer, urxvt, Zathura (PDF reader),  and so on (complete list on Softpedia). Archbang includes packer, a neat package manager with AUR access, giving you easy access to every piece of Linux software currently available, even closed source binaries like Citrix or some freeware games.

Bumblebee ION2 support can simply be installed from the AUR, after 5 minutes of heavy compiling (and some simple config steps) I was successfully running ‘optirun glxgears’ at several hundred FPS. Mission completed. All other hardware seems to work out of the box, as expected with Kernel3.

If you want to know more about Archbang check their FAQs … for me Archbang offers the perfect balance between The Arch Way and “pleasantly boring” #!. So if you are running #! or Bodhi and want to go to the next level, Archbang is definitely for you. The blog post “10 things to do after installing Archbang” provides a good starting point for customizing your install.

CTK Arch – A better Archbang

Being a big fan of #!, I was always interested in bringing a #! style desktop on my other favourite distro, Arch. The most obvious choice for this would be Archbang, but frequent packages changes (up to the point of including LXDE in one release) and missing stability (2011-01 didn’t even survive its first pacman -Syu), made me look further … so I finally found CTK Arch.

CTK Arch is, by far, the fastest live system I’ve ever seen. A truly minimal setup and optimmized alignment of the binaries on the disc make it boot in less than a minute, from CD !! GParted is inlcuded, so this will surely replace PartedMagic for me. If you create a bootable USB, you can also include a persistent data partition or extend the ISO with (squashfs based) add-ons, but I didn’t try that, yet. The default software selection includes everything you really need and a couple of extras, like GParted (already mentioned), GIMP, Tuxracer, Audacity, GTK and and even 2 full featured web browsers (Midori, Arora and Jumanji). Smplayer takes care of your media player needs.

The HDD installer (in Applications / System) is very similar to a standard (text- based) Arch install. Its killer feature is, that it can copy ALL the modifications you did in a live session (including all configuration changes and installs) into your new user profile.  Of course I added some of my personall favourites after installing (Firefox, terminator, conky …) and configured #! keyboard shortcuts, but the standard is really close to what I’d expect from a minimalistic Openbox environment. CTK also features an automatic xdg-menu section(so you don’t have to create your own menu entries), and a one click theme changer to switch between a darker and lighter theme (wicd, power manager and volume control tray icons can also be switched off and on from the menu). Yaourt is included as package manager, so you can easily install AUR packages, too.

If you MUST have the latest KDE4 or Gnome3 desktop with all the bling and eyecandy, CTK Arch is not for you. But if you like minimalistic distributions like #!, Archbang or Puppy, or if you are looking for a solid, WORKING Arch install to extend later, CTK Archdefinitely is the way to go.